I was Pro – Hemp before Hemp was cool!
Hempsters, Plant the Seed Producer Diana Oliver brings industrial hemp into the public eyes.
Every state in the US now attempts to manage or many would claim ignores an ever-growing Hemp movement. From state house legislative debates, presidential candidates to Washington lawmakers and even the hallowed halls of the US Courts, Hemp has become the burgeoning and sometimes annoying subject for lawmakers that’s not going away. A recent survey sponsored by the White House asking US citizens which issue is most important to them came back with Hemp restoration at the top of the list by respondents. The restoration of Hemp as an agricultural crop, economic engine and bio-industry has now become the new “in vogue” American issue. That wasn’t always the case, but thanks to those early pioneers in the US Hemp movement, it’s now a fact that can no longer be marginalized.
In 1997 Woody Harrelson brought national attention to Hemp propagation when he defiantly planted four Hemp seeds in a majestic Kentucky field. He intentionally did so in the presence of law enforcement officials. He was promptly arrested but he wasn’t without friends and supporters. Thanks to them he was eventually exonerated after a 7 -year legal battle and the keen legal skills of the popular former Kentucky Governor Louie Nunn. Woody, often the Hollywood leading man shows a more cerebral side during the film. He will impress you by the extent of his genuine warmth and deep intellect. Woody brought the issue to the forefront of public dialog in a style never before seen, but he did something else that day too, caught the attention of young aspiring producer Diana Oliver from Dallas, Texas. “I was working for a TV production company and had pitched the idea of producing an environmental piece. My bosses liked it and to me to choose a subject. I started looking for the perfect theme. I was sitting at my desk when an AP wire came across reporting Woody Harrelson had been arrested in Kentucky. I had met Woody and actually worked with him on the movie “White Men Can Jump. I knew right then Hemp was what I’d been looking for. I had been introduced to Hemp and it’s benefits a few years before by a friend, but looking back now, what I would learn about Hemp is the real story. Hemp would change my life forever and become not only my passion but my life’s work”.
What started off as a small TV feature production evolved into fifteen years and spurred the creation of a top rated documentary film company – Thunderbird Productions and a full-scale documentary film “Hempsters – Plant the Seed”. “Diana possessed uncanny foresight in recognizing the impact Hemp would make in every socioeconomic category. She really foresaw a movement that was not only a part of US history in the making but actually realized all those involved had to be recorded for posterity too. She did it.” – Dea Riley
“My eyes were opened by the process of my own film – I spent the first two years heavily researching the issue then the next 10 traveling and filming with a camera crew. I was overwhelmed by the endless benefits Hemp offered and the potential impact it could make on our health, economy, industry, environment and overall sustainability. It has nearly 50,000 uses. I was amazed by how many people knew about Hemp, young and old, but equally amazed as to who did not – people my own age were clueless. At first when I brought it up everyone would say ‘that’s just another word for pot right’ – Wrong.” Diana recalls
Hemp and Marijuana are two separate plants from the same family – the same way a Pine and Oak tree are two separate trees, but both are trees. While 16 US states have created legislation in one form or another legalizing medical marijuana – Hemp remains illegal. Hemp possesses little or immeasurable amounts of THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. If Hemp or marijuana are grown in any relative proximity to one another, Hemp being the dominant plant, over powers marijuana and renders it neutral, or in other words voids its ability to produce THC. The ideal way to eradicate marijuana would be to plant Hemp. Every scientist, expert, law enforcement entity and lawmaker in the nation know this fact, but seem to conveniently ignore it.
This begs the question: Why? Well that’s a complicated question, and the answer depends on whom you talk to. Many Hemp advocates will declare it was all a conspiracy lead by notable figure William Randolph Hearst, who utilized his newspapers to vilify Hemp not due to any public concern, but rather to give the timber industry, in which he was heavily invested, a leg up on market competition. They may make a relevant point in that his mass newspaper holdings were the main tool used by corporate and government lobbyist to pass the marijuana tax stamp act of 1937 resulting in making Hemp illegal, right alongside its notorious cousin marijuana. That was the beginning of fooling the public into believing marijuana and Hemp were the same thing. Many historians claim that some other industry leaders definitively merged the two plants as one intentionally by utilizing a complex propaganda campaign as to garner public support for eradicating not only the plant but also the industry in whole. Not everyone agrees it was a conspiracy. Some think Hemp was the least favored choice by consumers compared to cotton and the newly developed creation of synthetics, but regardless of the reason, the long list of conspiracy theories, Hemp was the baby thrown out with the bath water. There is no dispute that making Hemp illegal ushered in the decline of the American family farm, a predominately practiced sustainable lifestyle and fostered American consumers synthetic craze. Hempsters- Plant the seed covers it all in well thought out entertaining film.
“This was a story that needed to be told and in more places than just coffee shops among historians, politicians, academics, economist and farm families – everyone needed to know because everyone is affected. Once I got started there was no way I could walk away. I had to tell the whole story and tell the story of everyone involved”. Diana Oliver reflected.
It took nearly 15 years from concept to completion and final release of Hempsters – Plant the Seed. “I realized in the end I had created more a chronology of the US Hemp movement than just another documentary about Hemp. Hempsters – Plant the Seed is about the beginning fight and everyone who stood on the front line”.
Everyone isn’t an exaggeration when viewing this film. Hempster’s – Plant the Seed released last year to excellent reviews, captured not only the biggest names in the Hemp movement, but Hollywood, the music industry, environmentalism and politics too. Names like Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson, Ralph Nader and Merle Haggard just to name a few. It’s also chalked full of people who aren’t so well known like Donna Cockrel – the Kentucky teacher fired for having Woody Harrelson come to speak to her class about the benefits of Hemp. Julia Butterfly Hill made famous among environmentalist when she perched herself atop a 200 year old Sequoia Tree in California and refused to leave for two years in protest of deforestation. Diana was quick to point out “We were the first camera crew to film her – we actually sent the camera up in a bag to Julia and captured her while she nested there determined to make a difference. Now’s she’s world renowned and what she did made a real difference.” Also featured is Alex White Plume, the Lakota Native American who led his family in planting Hemp on their 20 million acre homeland on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Diana was there to capture it all – “The most amazing moment for me was to drive over a hill and look down into a valley to see more than 100 Lakota Native Americans standing on freshly plowed black hills earth, their motherland, waiting for me and my camera crew to arrive so we could film the planting. I planted an entire row of Hemp myself that day. Later, I took a horse back ride with Alex to the top of a ridge – if God had a driveway that is what it would look like and I knew right then and there I had become part of history in the making. “
It is hard not to listen when famed country musician Willie Nelson makes this comment “Every politician I have known has hidden from the Hemp issue like snakes. There was a reason that the powers that be put this plant here – and to eradicate if from all over the planet is not exactly what the big guy had in mind -If you know what I mean. You know he put it there and why should we take it out? We should use it for what it is worth.” Willie also donated his song to the soundtrack “We don’t Run” available on ITunes.
Diana appreciated all those who participated in the project and the single aspect of the film that makes it a must-see are the interviews. “This is as much an agricultural issue as it is an environmental, social or economic one. Willie has been the leading advocate for American farmers through his work with Farm Aid and Hemp is important to American Farmers. Last time I saw Willie he said – “hey little girl you pulled it off – great job.” I know he was very pleased with the final result of the film. It was people like Willie and Woody that inspired me to keep going. What amazed me is that all these people risk everything they had, their celebrity status and subject themselves to potential public ridicule for no other reason than to do the right thing – what I did was capture it on film.”
Producer Diana Oliver is now embarking upon her second Hemp film – Hemp America – Seeds of Growth a sequel to the first. This time Executive Producer Dea Riley joins her. “I often say there should be a documentary made about the making of the documentary. You can’t imagine all I endured to create Hempsters – Plant the Seed. It’s nice to have real support and a solid successful film to stand on this go round.” Diana Oliver’s new film Hemp American will capture the Hemp movement, as it is today and all the players involved. “We’re already interviewing Directors and raising money – we’re almost overwhelmed by all those who want to be involved. The Hemp movement has become more organized, more powerful and we’ll be traveling throughout the nation to feature the new generation of leaders. Hempsters – Plant the Seed was about the history, the conspiracy and those great men and women who stood up first; Hemp America will focus on the polities, personalities and economics of the issue as it is today. We’ve come a long way baby.”
See it for free on Hulu
originally published in HEMP Lifestyle magazine